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March 2011: Rutabegorz hosts its first OCRS

Although it has hosted many RagFests as a venue for “open piano,” Rutabegorz Restaurant has never been a site for the OCRS – until now. The back room was packed on March 19, 2011, but most of those present were there to dine and not necessarily to listen. That made the first half of the performances often hard to hear above the din of the many guests, but the day’s pianists were nevertheless undaunted.

Like last month, Stan Long set up the “evil twin” of his “Bozodorfer,” which assisted the performers in providing several four-handed arrangements of their favorite pieces. Despite competing with the vocal noise of Rutas’ patrons, the nine performers delivered a total of 46 outstanding selections. Nearly half of these were either contemporary compositions (nine in all) or were rarities from the vintage era (twelve total).

Doug Haise got things rolling with Bertha Stanfield’s “Uncle Zeke’s Medley Rag” from 1912 and “Universal Rag,” a 1912 George Botsford rag originally released only on piano roll (Doug learned the piece from Frank Wooster’s transcription).

Continuing with more Botsford, Eric Marchese played the composer’s first big hit, “Black and White Rag,” from 1908, then a Botsford rarity, “Old Crow Rag.” From early 1909, this was Botsford’s first published rag after “Black and White” and features many of his characteristic touches, notably the three-over-four device he so favored.

Gary Rametta offered Arthur Marshall’s “The Pippin” followed by another rarity: Jelly Roll Morton’s “Dead Man Blues,” which quotes liberally from such classical pieces as “Funeral March.”

Andrew Barrett played and sang Irving Berlin’s “International Rag” and the 1912 ragtime song “Bohemia” by Nick Hall (music) and Casper Nathan (lyrics). He followed with “Harlem Rag” and his newest original, “Andrew Barrett’s Rag,” which features many inventive harmonies and other devices.
Shirley Case featured Claude Bolling’s “Bis Scott Rag,” a 1975 tribute to Scott Joplin, followed by Luckey Roberts’ “Pork and Beans” and James Scott’s “Frog Legs.”

Frank Sano and Bill Mitchell duetted on a medley featuring “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Five-Foot-Two” and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby.” Frank then soloed on “Hard-Hearted Hannah” and “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me.”

Stan Long delivered “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Haunting Accident” (an original) and “Taxi Rag,” a wonderful vintage piece by the French-Canadian ragtimer Jean-Baptiste Lafrenniere.

Bill Mitchell gave us “George Grind” (Ford Dabney), “Baltimore Todalo” (Eubie Blake) and “The Pearls” (Morton).

Making a rare guest appearance, Erika C. Miller sang “The Fullerton Glide,” written by Eric Marchese in 2004 as a tribute to the city that has hosted OCRS and RagFest over the past decade. Eric then soloed on Paul Pratt’s outstanding “Spring-Time Rag” from 1916, to commemorate the start of spring, and the rarely performed “Shamrock Rag” by Euday Bowman (also from 1916) in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Gary encored with Scott’s wonderful “Rag Sentimental” and Bix Beiderbicke’s “In the Dark,” then asked Bill to join him in a duet of “Sunflower Slow Drag” (Scott Hayden, with a trio by Scott Joplin).
Doug’s encores were Frank Stori’s “‘U’ of ‘M’ Harmony Rag” (1914), “Universal Fox Trot” and George L. Cobb’s offbeat “Umpah! Umpah!.”

Shirley encored with Nan Bostick’s newest original, “Our Ragtime Lien,” followed by Galen Wilkes’ ragtime tango “Queen of Diamonds.” She closed her outstanding set with “Bumble Boogie,” Jack Fina’s 1946 boogie version of “Flight of the Bumble-Bee,” in honor of Sonny Leyland’s upcoming house concert.
Andrew’s terrific encore set included four pieces. He played and sang “Fiddle-Dee-Dee,” a rare 1912 Irving Berlin song, and Jean Schwartz and Vincent Bryan’s “Ragging the Old Vienna Roll,” featuring a great instrumental (piano) interlude. He closed with two top-notch solos: “Top Liner Rag” (Lamb) and his own “Humanitaur,” admittedly his most difficult and challenging piano rag.

Stan offered two originals – “Short Boogie” and “My Ditty” – then the turn-of-the-century hit “Hiawatha.”

Bill encored with strong performances of Wenrich’s “The Smiler” and 1910’s “Glad Rag,” by J. Bodewalt Lampe (as “Ribe Danmark”). He and Andrew then duetted on Roberts’ “Music Box Rag.”

The wonderful afternoon of music concluded with Gary’s rendition of “Brown Derby No. 2,” a rare Joseph Lamb rag. Originally discovered on an audiotape, it was later transcribed by Dr. Joe Scotti. It’s a fine piece containing many characteristic Lamb touches and devices, and it was a terrific way to end the musicale.

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